Marcelino Sambé is now a Principal!

Remember when Marcelino Sambé came onto the ballet competition scene? His big charasmatic smile, his hyper-flexibility, and his amazing technique made him stand out among all of his competitors. Born in Lisbon, he joined the Royal Ballet Upper School after his ferocious performance at Prix De Lausanne in 2010. After completing his years at the coveted Upper School, he joined the company in 2012. He was promoted to First Artist in 2014, Soloist in 2015 and First Soloist in 2017. Congratulations to this shining superstar.

Here is an ever younger Sambé at Yagp: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=10155537635793407

Last year, Dance Magazine named him 25 to Watch. But the ballet world has been watching him since he was 15. But his talent isn’t just limited to ballet. He has now started dabbling in photography.

Follow his Instagram account to @marcisambe

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A WEEK IN BALLET…

Cover photo: Our cover girl Jillian Davis and her partner Andrew Brader of Complexions dancing in Phoenix Ballet‘s Golden Swan Gala, performing Dwight Rhoden’s Amazing Grace. Photo by Alexandra Rose/ VOGUE IMAGES. (Click here to read more about Jillian Davis)

jillian davis andrew brader complexions

A week in ballet… haven’t done one of these in a while, but I didn’t have much else to say, well I did, but it would probably just create more controversy and would rather not have one of those weeks. Over the past two weeks I have been experiencing crazy things in my personal life including a major car accident (I was a passenger in a Lyft), coming home to Charleston, the ups and downs of dating and the struggles of finding inspiration for A Ballet Education. I did find inspiration in moss, so I created the April Tracker, now available for purchase.

APRIL 2018

So, what has been going on in Ballet?

St. PETERSBURGADC IBC in St. Petersburg Florida has started. Some say, this is a good warm up for what is going to happen at the YAGP finals in New York City. But the reality, this competition garners a lot more credit than people give it. The competition itself is outline in a previous issue by Wesliegh Dichter. (Click here to read). To get the gist, you aren’t judged just on performance, but you are judged on class, compulsory classical and contemporary variations, and performance. Then all of the scores are averaged together to present the winners. Don’t forget to watch their live stream!

SAN FRANCISCO- San Francisco Ballet has announced their new promotions for the upcoming season… All three are men. Wei Wang has been promoted to Principal, and Ben Fremantle and Lonnie Weeks have both been pulled from the corps to be soloists.

SALT LAKE CITY- Ballet West has announced their 18/19 season with their strongest PR campaign ever. If you didn’t catch it in Issue 10… The season will include Jewels, Swan Lake, Onegin and Beauty and the Beast for their second company and school.

ballet west a ballet education

SEATTLE– Today Pacific Northwest Ballet wrapped up Director’s Choice in Seattle and the 2018-2019 Season looks like it is going to be spectacular. They open their season with Jerome Robbins Festival followed by all new works. The Sleeping Beauty, Director’s Choice, Midsummer Night’s Dream and Themes ad Variations will all be mounted… They also have branded each program pretty great.

LONDONThe Royal Ballet is to stage an all female production by Aleta Collins. This is a big deal as it wasn’t until 2017 that a female choreographer has been invited to create work for the Royal Ballet. Since 1999. This is one of many new PR stunts Royal Ballet is doing… they have partnered with Erdem for Chris Wheeldon’s Corybantic Games.

SOUTH BRISBANE, QUEENSLAND The Queensland Ballet is going to be getting a major do-over/ make over. News of their new state supported 10 million dollar expansion plan is going underway. Their new building is going t one a state-of-the-art ballet center designed by Conrad Gargett. Queensland Ballet is in the middle of their production of La Bayadere, which is developed quite well, with better storytelling during the colonization of India. It was done by Greg Horsman. (They just need better costumes… though I do like their shades… It is done in crop tops to look more authentic.)

BOSTONBoston Ballet has announced three exciting tours starting in June 2018 at Lincoln Center with the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglwood in August, and for the first time, Boston Ballet will be going to Paris to perform at the iconic Theatre des Champs-Elysees in April 2019. They will be taking a contemporary bill including Forsythes Pas/Parts 2018, a world premiere, and Jiri Kylian’s Wings of Wax.

IHOP… International House of Primas

IHOP

I hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day! This week has been a crazy amazing week for ballet… and this next week is going to be a great week as well. This week’s insta theme is International Ballet… So, if you missed anything this week in ballet, here are some of the highlights:

Royal Ballet premiered “Frankenstein” which will be on stage till May 27. Choreography by Liam Scarlett. Set design by John Macfarlane. Music by  Lowell Liebermann

Boston Ballet announced their new 5-year partnership with William Forsythe. What does this mean? Over the next five years, this world-renowned choreographer will present a new ballet each year, and presenting already existing Forsythe repertory to the company. It is already reflected in the 2016-2017 season announcement… But, this will also mean that Boston Ballet will shift from a more classical repertory to a more contemporary repertory, which will make them stand out among other top companies here in the US. This will also mean a lot of their more contemporary dancers will be utilized… Boston Ballet this month is presenting their full-length “Swan Lake“.

Most ballet companies around the world have announced their 2016-2017 season, roster, promotions and new hires… except NYCB who will announce theirs after the SAB workshop and then in Sarasota. (Tradition) This month, like every end of season NYCB closes with “midsummers“.

ABT goes up at the Met tomorrow debuting with the powerhouse ballet “Sylvia“, which means… you can buy my leading ladies of ABT on a set of stationary cards, women’s and junior’s shirts, and a mug… I haven’t seen them or know how they will be selling the, I just know they are… The image isn’t the leading ladies of ABT I did, I revised it per their request and so it becomes available tomorrow. Don’t know if it will be offered in Los Angeles when they come to Dorothy Chandler in July.

abt at the met

Stella in Giselle, Isabella in their new Sleeping Beauty, Misty in Corsaire, Maria in Don Q, Gillian in Sylvia, Veronika in Swan Lake, Polina in Raymonda, Hee in Bayadere, Diana in Romeo and Juliet… FYI Polina pulled out of her performances at ABT because of an “injury” or actual injury but this is the second season in a row she has pulled out of the Met Season….

Houston Ballet is getting ready to present a mixed repertory on May 26, that is kind of to die for… Serenade, Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Gloria, and HB’s premier of Alexander Akeman’s Cacti. Their rehearsal videos are all over instagram.

Nederlands Dance Theatre is performing “Separate Ways” May 11-14


ALL POSTERS ON SALE FOR THE NEXT TWO DAYS FOR THE CHEAPEST THEY HAVE EVER BEEN!!! $19.99 !!! (click here to shop the blog)

I will be posting more #corpsdeballetconfessional this week as well… I have gotten really behind on all that… I also have some super cool interviews coming together…

More technical posts on the way….

Nutcracker illustrations for my children’s book are underway…

Summer Program posts are coming… and I think that covers basically everything…

Oh don’t forget to vote and write in for my ballet company awards!! And stay tuned for JUNE… When I announce 2016’s BIG TEN!!!


 

Fantastic Five: 5 Really Great Male Variations

In the world of ballet, variations define a dancer’s career. As artists a variation is the one moment where technique, artistry and years of daunting rehearsals finally meet. A 2-3 Act ballet is carried by the principals, and the defining moment for them are their variations. For a female in the role(s) Odette/Odile, she is first pushed emotionally, and technically as Odette. Then in a ferocious breath she seductively attacks with stamina, the role of Odile. Then, she has to turn back int Odette, and die. Exhausting. I mean not only does the prima have to act, change roles, act some more, she also has to do two full on PDDs and do an epic 4th act finale. Pretty impressive.

When it comes to the men in ballet, their variations are always kind of bland. It is usually two jumping passes, followed by two pirouette combinations, executed by flawless double tours or entrechat sixs, and then some have a quality menage added in. Either way, these variations have turned into like… the most redundant yet insanely tricked out performances. Like Roberto Bolle cranking out 40 Entrechat six in Giselle… Or Daniil Simkin’s insane turning combos for Corsaire… Or Osiel Gounod in … like every variation. (If you don’t know who he is… youtube that $h!t… it’s like insane.)

Now, there are a lot of male variations that are actually super musical, and super beautiful that are overlooked. Granted… Most of them are either Balanchine, or specific to a company’s repertory. BUUUUT… Regardless… We should take a look at these fantastic five variations for men.

1. “Name of Prince” Variation in ACT II… Paris Opera’s – Nureyev version gives the male two super beautiful variations in the second act. The first uses the music that Balanchine’s Nutcracker uses to bridge party and battle scene. It is a very long variation (7 minutes), but super gorgeous, and demonstrates that boys have arabesques too. It could be that Nureyev really reinvented the male, and as a male ballet dancer he was able to create roles for other men within the confinements of classical ballet. The second variation is from the music sometimes used in ACT III of sleeping beauty for one of the jewels. It is very classical as well but has really gorgeous enveloppe moments. Then, Royal Ballet also gives a super luscious, kind of sensual variation in the second act as well. As sensual as fairytale princes get.

2. Balanchine’s Apollo. Besides the fact that this is probably one of the only ballets with a male name as the title and has the title/leading role… With music by Stravinsky, Apollo never leaves the stage but has two brilliant variations. One is really raw, and the other is really refined. Balanchine cut the first variation and birthing, but people since have put both back in. Both variations are incredibly musical, one of the things that I adore about Balanchine. I think for a lot of male dancers who were trained in the Balanchine aesthetic, and for men in Balanchine companies, this ballet is used to really define their presence in the company. I think NYCB currently has Chase Finlay as the face of Apollo, and prior to him was Nilas Martins (both blonde… kind of suspicious) but, both made names for themselves in the role. David’s Dream Casting: Alexandre Hammoudi (aka Baby Daddy) in Apollo.

Edward Villella, retired artistic director of The Miami City Ballet, as Apollo in the 1950s at New York City Ballet. Photo by Martha Swope.
Edward Villella, retired artistic director of The Miami City Ballet, as Apollo in the 1950s at New York City Ballet. Photo by Martha Swope.

3. The Male Variation(s) from Sylvia. Besides the fact that the Delibes’ score is super danceable and kind of cute… (FUN FACT: the original production of Sylvia was created to open the Palais Garnier for Paris Opera, and the costumes were designed by Lacoste) In the Balanchine PDD, the male is variation is structured like a classical variation, but has really beautiful nuances added in. And like a lot of the classical-like Balanchine male variations (Tchai Pas, Theme and Variations), each one was modified so the steps vary by who dances/staged it. In the Ashton version of Sylvia, Aminta has numerous gorgeous variations. I actually think that the Ashton Version is only danced at American Ballet Theatre, and Royal Ballet. Paris Opera has a version of Sylvia, but it is more contemporary or modern, so it doesn’t count for this list. If we counted that… Then we would have to count numerous other new ballets like Chroma, In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, every ballet created by Complexions, Cedar Lake and LINES, and the Cranko Ballets… Though… I really should count the Cranko Ballets… )

Roberto Bolle in Ashton's Sylvia. Royal Ballet. Screen shot off youtube. #boom
Roberto Bolle in Ashton’s Sylvia. Royal Ballet. Screen shot of youtube. #boom leg up.

4. The male variations in John Cranko’s Onegin are like beyond roles and somehow have combined real life and ballet. The music used for the male variations aren’t awfully heavy, and scary sounding. The variations also create this beautiful emotional prism for a male ballet dancer. All of the Cranko characters are always so dynamic. I’ve never seen it live, but have watched the full length on Youtube on five different companies. It is incredible. When I was a student, I never really wanted to dance Onegin, but now in retrospect it is so beautiful to me and I am like -_____-  (that is my Snorlax face)… Not that I was ever good enough, or would ever have been cast in Onegin… but still… a boy can dream.

5. The Liza Variation, from Balanchine’s Who Cares? Music by Gershwin. Probably one of the younger variations as it was choreographed in 1937, but it is super fun. Kind of jazzy, okay, super jazzy but really fun dancing. Seriously. If you ever have the chance to preform it, it is one of the must enjoyable variations to get through. It isn’t like trying to get through the male variation in Theme and Variations or random crazy turns from Corsaire. Did I mention, it really is just plain fun? And Baryshnikov in a Balanchine ballet = love. (Click Here = https://youtu.be/GnWxmELOcBI)

The Male Variation in the Satanella Pas De Deux from the Carnival of Venice tied with the male variation for Harlequinade for variations in classical ballet that aren’t dance enough. Both are obviously classical variations, but I feel like these two ballets are underused. Plus… I think the music is kind of cute. I also think these two male variations are more age appropriate for boys (11-16) competing at competitions. I mean what 11 year old boy should be doing Swan Lake? Then, because I love Balanchine, there are the roles that don’t really have variations but are gorgeous: the male lead in Rubies or Diamonds, the male in the walking pas de trois from Emeralds. I think all the male leads in Symphony in C or Palais Cristal, the male leads in Western Symphony, the pas de deux from Agon.)

Finally, I would like to take the time to talk about Lady of the Camellias, music by Chopin, and choreographed by John Neumeier is another “newer” classic work. It premiered in 1978 with Marcia Haydee, and is a super beautiful full length with male variations… The downside is that even though the story is the same, Val Caniparoli used the same music and redid it, maybe even better … But in this version, the male variations are great but they really  aren’t as dynamic as the females. Lucia Lacarra slayed this for the ballet gods.

To see the 5 variations, watch them on our YOUTUBE channel’s playlist:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLdVNSG-GEpYve4cBxruz2mXPT0MV0vPVa

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Arabesque.

 

The Position That Makes Ballet, well ballet…

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Sara Michelle Murawski’s, a soloist at Slovak National Ballet, super famous arabesque picture that probably one of the first pictures that made dancers addicted to instagram.

Contemporary Dancers have the tilt, jazz dancers have the layout, but ballet dancers have arabesque.

For those of you who are auditioning for the first time, the reason why everyone asks for an arabesque picture is for the following reasons: arabesque is one of the hardest positions to make in ballet, and it shows your turn out, flexibility, hyperextension and feet in on photo without hating yourself. If ballet auditions asked for, say…ecarte derrière… no one would audition… ever.

Now, there is a great debate of what arabesque technique is correct, or where it actually comes from, but should we really get into all of that mess? Maybe, just little bit. Just generalizing some things about companies that have a very specific type of arabesque.

Royal Ballet, the Ashton Arabesque is this super classical, dreamy position that requires the following: a hypermobile back, beautifully arched feet, and rarely is placed above 90 degrees. In addition, I think the artists of the Royal Ballet are the only ones that don’t let the supporting leg turn in. Their turn out is bangin. The arms are always super relaxed, and rarely go above their faces. Ultimate restraint. (Royal Ballet’s arabesque line isn’t the RAD line. I don’t believe in the RAD method, so I am not going to talk about it.)

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Plus, who doesn’t love some Sarah Lamb on any given day? Ironically, she is an American, with Russian training, dancing a Jerome Robbin’s piece set on NYCB, but staged on Royal Ballet.

The Russians have their own arabesque line as well. They are known for their incredible height and stretch. Besides the majority of women coming out of Vaganova school are beasts, their primas have create this unique fragile but stretched arm position. Standing leg is turned in.

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For the sake of irony, the super stunning Uliana Lopatkina, a Russian Dancing a Balanchine piece set on Bolshoi.

Then we have the super “classical” arabesque which is the mish mosh of cecchetti, vaganova and french… which is now lumped into the category of classical:

ballet pose

Perfect turn out, not so hyper mobile, lifted up and forward, relaxed elbow, and spatula hands… just kidding, just a soft middle finger down…

Then we have the Balanchine Arabesque, which isn’t really a change in the principals of arabesque, but more of the arm and hand positions.

ashley boulder

Ashley Bouder and Jonathan Stafford in Tchai Pas. Ironically, everyone calls their hands the claw… or that they are really wristy, but Russians are more…  aka the super stunning and talented force Evgenia Obraztsova

evgenia obraztsova

And then finally, there is the Paris Opera Arabesque… which is basically like the impossible arabesque. Which is only possible if you are well… given everything and trained at Paris Opera.

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Another Irony, Paris Opera is the home of ballet, and here we have the Sylvie Guillem in a contemporary work. I have never really understood the Paris Opera arabesque besides it looking beyond perfect. David Hallberg who trained at POB has one of those arabesque that are beyond pulled up. A lot of the etoiles of paris opera have these super raised hips.

Another note… we gag on arabesque pictures on IG and tumblr, but the reality is… do we ever see these massive arabesques on stage… unless you are russian… Or Dark Angel in Serenade? I think the “style” of arabesque also comes from the role you are doing, the tempo of music, etc.

Now, here are some things that are really difficult for young dancers when it comes to arabesque…

Higher isn’t always better.

Being Square is in reference that both pelvic bones are on the same level of space.

Tilting your hip is really just for side extension.

Things regardless of what “style” of arabesque you are doing…

Your spinal chord can’t be compromised…

You either have a hyper mobile back and hips or you don’t.

Regardless of the arm placement, the torso doesn’t twist…

My favorite motto when teaching: when in doubt, turn out.

Finding what arabesque works on your body is really important as well. If you look at the women of NYCB, none of them have the same arabesque line. You have to find what looks best on your body… for anything in ballet, but especially for arabesque. As you develop into an artist you find your stride in arabesque, and what looks best on your body type. Arm placement, stretch, reach, quality… Those are the things that really distinguish an arabesque. No two professional arabesques are the same. When training, it might be a different story, but because no body is alike, the technique looks different on everyone.

 

The Ballet Feuds…

ballet wars

There will always be ballet feuds… Going back to the Original Ballets Russes and The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Here are some of the current match ups….

ironically none of these principals are british...
ironically none of these principals are british…

Royal Ballet vs. English National Ballet The Tea and Crumpets War

Ummm I love Kathryn Morgan period. I loved her as Juliet, but hated the Peter Martins version... how that happens I have no clue... Hee Seo is one of my favorite dancers, I wish she could join city ballet and I could see her in serenade, emeralds and tchai pas.
Ummm I love Kathryn Morgan period. I loved her as Juliet, but hated the Peter Martins version… how that happens I have no clue… Hee Seo is one of my favorite dancers, I wish she could join city ballet and I could see her in serenade, emeralds and tchai pas.

New York City Ballet vs. American Ballet Theatre (old rivalry but a goodie)

The Australian Ballet vs. Queensland Ballet… the fight down under

Houston Ballet vs. Ballet Austin vs. Texas Ballet TheatreThe Texas Threesome 

Miami City Ballet vs. Orlando Ballet, younger ballet companies hashing it out. 

Stuttgart vs. Hamburg, the German showdown 

Bolshoi vs Mariinsky (old rivalry but a goodie)

National Ballet of Canada vs Royal Winnipeg… Canadian Syrup Fight

In bold I have decided who I like more… haha (insert your comments below)

There are many more but these are some that I enjoy watching as they promote people, change up their repertory, and start the social media wars. What is great is that we have all these options, that each company brings something new, and has created numerous jobs for their areas. 

The 2014-2015 season… well the ballet season…

And so it begins… the 2014-2015 season of ballet is coming up, literally just a few months away which means two things: pre-ticket sales, and promotions. Okay, so if you don’t know the ballet calendar it goes something like the following, it kind of mirrors the academic school year:

2014 September – November (Fall/Winter Season)

2014 December – (Nutcracker Season)

2015 January – Mid March (Audition Season, for those who are going to summer programs or looking to join a company.)

2015 January – May (Spring Season)

2015 June – August (Summer Programs for those who are still students, and off season for those in a company, or touring season)

A large company will go through 8-20 different programs a season, a regional company may go through 4 programs. A program is basically a run of a ballet, like a mini show. For example: Nutcracker is a program which might run from November-December and have various casts.


Now, to the actual post… the 2014-2015 season has been announced across the board and well there are some pretty awesome things planned across the world in terms of ballet. American Ballet Theatre, also known as ABT is celebrating their 75 anniversary. For those NYCB (New York City Ballet) fans, a huge season is planned with tons of new premiers, as well as the retiring of the legendary Wendy Whelan. Oregon Ballet Theatre hits their 25th anniversary. Paris Opera Ballet is staging a massive repertory, like always. This time under Natalie Portman’s baby daddy Benjamin Millepied as director of dance…. If you haven’t purchased your season tickets, now is the time to do it, as they are discounted greatly.


Now it is time for the rant…. This was all started because Royal Ballet, that is housed at Covent Garden in London, released their promotions list, and to my surprise on the new hires… Natalia Osipova. Don’t get me wrong, I love her. She is a beast. She is crazy talented and beautiful. I just saw her and Ivan at OCPAC. Super beautiful… BUUUUUT really Royal Ballet? There are so many talented individuals in your company who have been waiting to be promoted… my personal favorite Yuhui Choe, and I am just not saying this because she is Korean. And yes, I was totally rooting for Hee Seo at ABT. Regardless, Royal Ballet, that holds their nose in the air to most ballet pedagogies, who prides themselves on being a part of tradition just sold out… The hiring of ballet superstars isn’t to increase the artists creativity, the reality is, it is to increase revenue sales (which I get, I am a business man). I am not blaming anyone in particular, aka the board, the politics within the company, I am actually blaming the artistic director… It is sad that an artistic director doesn’t have faith in their company members to be brilliant enough to fill seats. Shame on you. Kevin McKenzie at ABT, I have been over you since I was like 12. Now Royal Ballet’s fresh from 2012, Kevin O’Hare… that is just so depressing. Boo on you. I am totally bashing Royal Ballet right now because their lack of faith in their company members. This in turn goes into my praise to artistic director’s at Boston Ballet, Houston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and I hope they make bigger Ballet Arizona. It is sad to think that in order to become a principal dancer you will have to change companies. Whether this is to step down a little and go to a smaller company, or to “trade” companies like a baseball player. How can you cultivate talent, and grow as an artist if you are never given the chance to prove yourself. And when you do get that chance, if you are torn apart by a critic, your chance will be shot to hell? (aka Sascha Redetsky, Jared Mathews, Stella Abrera, Kristi Boone, okay so maybe all of the older soloists at ABT..)